Last weekend, world leaders met at the U.N. 70th General Assembly, arguably “the greatest political show on Earth.” Among these world leaders was Mark Zuckerberg. That’s right, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was present at the event and was reportedly overheard talking about censorship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In this new era when Facebook sponsors presidential debates with Fox News, Mark Zuckerberg is an influential figure who should not be underestimated. According to a report from Bloomberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was overheard pressing Zuckerberg about “how his company is progressing in efforts to curtail racist posts.”
She spoke to Zuckerberg about the issue during a live transmission broadcast as people took their seats at the U.N. assembly, and he responded by saying, “We need to do some work.”
Zuckerberg’s statement to Merkel is in line with Facebook’s pledge to more closely monitor racist posts on German Facebook earlier this month. Facebook announced plans to join forces with “a non-profit group called Voluntary Self-Monitoring of Multimedia Service Providers.”
“We are committed to working closely with the German government on this important issue,” Debbie Frost, a spokeswoman Facebook said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News. “We think the best solutions to dealing with people who make racist and xenophobic comments can be found when service providers, government and civil society all work together to address this common challenge,” she added.
While racist posts are nothing to defend or excuse, it is relevant to ask why the German Chancellor has interest in using censorship to combat the problem.
It does not need to be said that censorship is like a floodgate; once you open it, the boundaries of what is ‘appropriate’ and what should be banned become blurred. If a society allows the censorship of one form of speech, a variety of interests seeking to censor social media may also pursue similar attempts to suppress free expression.
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